Why You Should Watch Temple

    Campus Insiders tells you why you should watch the Owls in 2015.

    July 22, 2015

    Matt Rhule has quietly done a solid job in his two seasons on Broad Street, finishing a respectable .500 in 2014. Best of all, the Owls exceeded expectations, including upsets of Vanderbilt and East Carolina, with minimal input from seniors. Now that everyone is a year older, and all five of last year’s all-leaguers return, Temple is a budding candidate to be this year’s Memphis in the conference. 

    All eyes, however, will be focused directly on QB P.J. Walker, whose sophomore slump a year ago is the most pressing issue needing to be addressed between now and the opening day visit from Penn State. 

    Temple needs to get Walker right, because there’s a hard cap to this program’s ceiling if the offense doesn’t play a more significant role in 2015. Walker was considered one of the rising young quarterbacks in 2013 after coming off the bench as a rookie to account for 23 touchdowns over the final eight games. 

    However, it was as a sophomore that he performed like a rookie, with his passer rating plummeting by 43 points. If Walker can resume being the confident and poised playmaker he was two years ago, it’ll have a transformational effect on the Owls, even though the balance of the skill position talent is mediocre. 

    Even nominal offensive improvement is going to profoundly impact the 2015 team because the defense is already that good. Temple yielded just 17 points per game in 2014, fourth lowest in the FBS. It was a remarkable effort by coordinator Phil Snow and his kids that might only be trumped by what the unit is capable of achieving this fall. 

    The Owls remarkably return ten starters and last year’s top ten tacklers, including all-stars Tyler Matakevich and Matt Ioannidis to the middle of the front seven. Temple can get to .500 on the backs of this no-name D alone. If the offense and the special teams get their acts together, look out. 

    Al Golden helped make Temple relevant, at least on a regional level, when the team won 17 combined games in 2009 and 2010. And Steve Addazio kept the Owls on course by going 9-4 in 2011. Rhule is on the verge of turning the program back into winners again, the result of on-field teaching and on-the-road recruiting. Temple is brimming with sleeper potential heading into 2015, but fulfilling blossoming expectations rests squarely on the right shoulder of Walker. 

    What you need to know about the offense: Temple exhibited an offensive pulse in 2013, when then-rookie QB P.J. Walker made an auspicious debut. And it was no mere coincidence that the Owls tanked when Walker regressed a year ago. This program must get its young quarterback back on track, which is why former Atlanta Falcons assistant Glenn Thomas has been added as the new QB coach. Thomas has already begun to restore some of his new pupil’s confidence, but the school must also give Walker more weapons as well. Jahad Thomas and Zaire Franklin, who’s enjoyed a terrific offseason, provide depth in the backfield. The receivers, though, have a ton to prove. Ventell Bryant has yet to play a down, yet is already being viewed as a possible No. 1 guy. Along the line of scrimmage, there’s a mixed bag of realities. The unit experienced, led by C Kyle Friend, and one-time DT Brian Carter is going to be a fixture at guard the next three years. However, LT Dion Dawkins was suspended following an aggravated assault in March, and line must do an improved job of run blocking in 2015. 

    What you need to know about the defense: The Owls ranked No. 4 nationally in scoring D and No. 11 in yards per play last season; from that salty unit, virtually everyone is back, including underrated coordinator Phil Snow. Snow has cobbled together a bunch of hardworking overachievers who are set to take their games to a new level in 2015. Not only is Temple flush in talent, such as LB Tyler Matakevich, DT Matt Ioannidis and DE Praise Martin-Oguike, but it also boasts ample leadership, confidence and chemistry. These Owls have been together for the past few years, and they’re poised to become one of the country’s premier Group of Five defenses. The Owls flashed no glaring weaknesses in 2014, despite being on the field way too long and getting minimal help from the offense and the special teams. Snow’s collection of blue-collar brawlers received another infusion of talent on Signing Day, namely with the addition of blue-chip CB Kareem Ali, who’s already on campus and competing for snaps. 

    The Schedule: 
    The Owls won’t have the luxury of easing into the 2015 campaign, since Penn State and Cincinnati will be their first two opponents of the year. 
    – Not only will Penn State be visiting Lincoln Financial Field this season, but so too will Notre Dame on Halloween for just the second meeting between the schools. 
    – As if hosting the Irish won’t already be difficult enough, Temple travels to East Carolina the Saturday before, and has consecutive road trips to SMU and USF the weeks after the ND game. 
    – Following the tough early tests, the schedule sets up for a month of momentum-building that includes a bye week and games with UMass, Charlotte and Tulane. 
    – The quest to become bowl-eligible this season could occur in front of the locals, since the Owls close the year at home versus Memphis and UConn. 
    – WATCH OUT FOR … UMass. The Minutemen made progress in Mark Whipple’s return, even if the record didn’t show it. They’ll be even deeper and more consistent in 2015, and will be hosting the Owls on Sept. 19. 

    2014 Fun Stats: 
    – Points per game: Temple 23.1 – Opponents 17.5 
    – Yards per game: Temple 308.4 – Opponents 347.1 
    – Third-down%: Temple 23% – Opponents 35% 


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